2022-23 Season Preview: The Forwards

September 19, 2022

With the 2022-23 season simply across the nook and coaching camp kicking off on the finish of this week, we’re having a look at what the Caps appear to be heading into this new marketing campaign, get to know a few of the new faces, and discuss in regards to the questions going through this squad. First up? The forwards.

The Incumbents

The Caps’ ahead group previous to this summer time’s free company procuring spree was already fairly stocked with expertise, however it wasn’t with out query marks.

Alex Ovechkin will after all be the main focus once more this season as he continues his chase for Wayne Gretzky’s report, and he enters this season simply 21 targets again of Gordie Howe for #2 on the all-time targets record, and 114 behind Gretzky. Ovechkin is coming off one more 50-goal season and continues to defy the chances. However at 37, how rather more does he have within the tank? As at all times, the Caps’ long-term playoff hopes largely focus on their captain.

That doesn’t imply it’s a one-man present, although, neither is he the one getting older magnificence within the lineup. Whereas the staff boasts proficient teammates like Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha, 10 of the 15 incumbent forwards are over the age of 30 – not superb within the younger man’s sport of hockey, however not essentially an indication that they’ll’t make any type of run. Injections of youth from guys like Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre, and the eventual return of the comparatively spry (post-recovery) Tom Wilson, might – and can doubtless have to – give the staff a lift. A completely wholesome and targeted Mantha couldn’t harm, both, because the lanky ahead put up 23 factors in simply 37 video games final 12 months.

After all, the general squad seems very completely different with Wilson and a wholesome Nicklas Backstrom in it… so it stays to be seen how every of their recoveries progresses, and what they appear to be when (and in Backstrom’s case, if) they return.

The Newcomers

GM Brian MacLellan and the Caps’ entrance workplace had been very busy in the beginning of the summer time, bringing in some strong depth items to enhance the prevailing lineup.

The signing of Dylan Strome was in all probability the transfer that made essentially the most waves. The previous ‘Hawk/Coyote was obtainable after Chicago considerably surprisingly walked away from him within the offseason, and he signed a budget-friendly one-year, $3.5 million cope with the Caps just some days later. He joins the staff with the expectation of filling in at second-line middle in Backstrom’s absence, and whereas nobody can ever substitute somebody like Backstrom, he’s a reasonably good back-up choice to have:

As thrilling because the Strome signing was, don’t sleep on one of many staff’s different strikes this summer time, which was the commerce for Connor Brown from the Senators. Brown’s not going to problem Ovechkin for the goal-scoring title, however he’s a powerful depth participant who’s able to placing up 20+ targets a season (and did simply that in solely 56 video games again in 2020-21).

As for the third ahead addition, Henrik Borgstrom, he may very well be a venture, and isn’t essentially a lock to even make the opening-night lineup… however he’s additionally received potential to be a strong defensive ahead, and is coming off a season the place his relative stats had been nearly all constructive (on a not superb Chicago staff).

Our SBN friends over at Second Metropolis Hockey summed it up this manner (and their season recap of him is an effective breakdown of simply what the Caps are getting):

[T]he Blackhawks had higher possession of the puck — when it comes to high quality and amount — when Borgstrom was on the ice. And that comes regardless of Borgstrom having an offensive zone begin proportion of 39.5, which is tenth among the many 15 Blackhawks forwards who skated 250 minutes at 5-on-5 final season.

The Darkish Horse

Connor McMichael. McMichael was simply essentially the most anticipated piece of the puzzle final season, however ends in his rookie marketing campaign had been considerably blended – and since these blended outcomes haven’t earned him the belief of the teaching employees simply but, there was a smaller-than-expected pattern dimension to have a look at when assessing his first NHL steps.

None of that’s to recommend, nonetheless, that McMichael can’t or gained’t take huge steps ahead this season. With Backstrom and Wilson on the sidelines indefinitely and another unproven items ready within the wings, the Caps will want him to take action.

The Questions

Can Nicklas Backstrom return to the lineup – and if he does, at what capability? Who will get the nod whereas Backstrom/Wilson are out to begin the season? How a lot does Alex Ovechkin have left within the tank? After an up-and-down rookie marketing campaign, is Connor McMichael able to make the leap to the full-time lineup?

The Outlook

There are a number of unknowns going through the Caps as they head into this season, and most of them focus on their ahead scenario. There’s not a ton of competitors for precise lineup spots, however there will probably be competitors for ice time and loads of discussions about lineup configurations, which ought to make camp fairly enjoyable to look at.

So what does the season forward maintain for the forwards? At finest, on paper, they’ll overcome the age concern and trip stellar campaigns by their high expertise – complemented by the robust depth items within the system and added this summer time – to be a playoff staff with an opportunity to be a darkish horse for a long term. At worst, they wrestle with out Backstrom and Wilson, the brand new guys don’t mesh, and the youngsters aren’t in a position to make up the distinction.

The enjoyable half about sports activities, after all, is that we don’t know which it’ll be (or if the fact will fall someplace within the center, which after all is the almost definitely).

At a look, although, this group might shock some folks.

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